Monday, November 03, 2008

thick cover of clover and rye

cover crop

I'm pleased with the patch of green manure I planted early this fall. The clover and rye did very well though the field peas and vetch didn't do much. My later sowings (too late) did not sprout as well.

topic: soil


Jim Lemire said...

How late was your later sowing?

kathy said...

The later one was around Oct 10, the earlier one was around September 15.

I think the later one would have been OK if I could have watered it or if the weather wasn't so dry after sowing. Our community garden water was shut off in early October.

Anonymous said...

For the moment I've give up on cover crops. Besides the ground never being free at the right time, and having to remember to sow the seeds, there's the issue of having to dig it in in the spring.

I have such a weed problem right now, I just have to do as little digging as possible. Every time I dig, I just bring more weed seeds to the surface.

For the moment, I'm just covering my garden in black plastic for the winter, but I'm also thinking of other things to do too.

kathy said...

I look forward to turning soil in the spring. Silly of me.... I've heard about no-till methods, but never done this. My Dad does this in some areas of his garden. I do end up pulling a lot of weeds. With soil loose, they come right out.

I also wonder how you mix in compost and lime if you don't turn the soil? I just dump these on the cover in the spring and turn it all under.

Its hard to get the timing right for the fall cover. I'm hoping that having a bit of extra garden space will make it easier to put the cover crop on after a summer crop is finished instead of following with a fall vegetable crop. If I rotate well, I should be able to get a clover-rich cover on most areas at least every other year.

Anonymous said...

No-til methods work on the basis of layers, sometimes called lasagna gardening. For weeds it works very well, because the weed seeds get buried as you keep adding layers, so never get a chance to germinate.

It often all begins when you have a lawn you want to turn into a garden. You put down a layer of cardboard or several layers of newspaper, followed by some compost or just ordinary dirt and plant seeds directly into it. It doesn't work perfectly, but most of the grass will be killed, and most desirable plants will grow right down through the paper layer. The following year you just keep tossing compost and mulch on top, as needed and are available, and replant.

There are some really strange sounding 'lasagna recipes' for getting things started the first year, especially on very poor ground. These include using things like old cotton/wool or other biodegradable carpets and clothing, paper based carpet underlay, compostable trash, etc.

You don't need to mix compost and lime into the soil. They work equally well when applied on top.

There are a number of reasons why soil is healthier if you let it develop layers, but I would have to research it before listing them.

A Japanese guy named Masanobu Fukuoka started the idea of no-til gardening/farming with his book One Straw Revolution. There was also an American woman called Ruth Stout and an Australian woman named Ester Deans who both promoted the idea in their day.

The idea of no-til gardening has a very strong following in Europe. It also lends itself well to a raised bed, as you can raise the level of the soil over time by just adding layers. It's also a lot less work than digging your garden!

I have yet however been able to find someone who can explain how you get a cover crop to work with no-til methods! This is why I end up covering my garden with black plastic for the winter. :(

Anonymous said...

I should add that I do know it's possible to grow annual rye, then cut it to the ground in the spring and it will stop growing. If just never been able to get the timing right for planting it I guess.

kathy said...

Interesting. I'm probably to set in my old ways.... But a side-by-side would be interesting to try.

I'd be concerned about aeration and compaction...

Would the cover crop work the same as you say for the lawn - cover with newspaper and compost or dirt and plant?

Anonymous said...

That's really the issue of cover crops! How do you get rid of them?

I think having to cover them up with new newspaper and dirt would make it too much trouble to be worth it.

Rye, on the other hand, is an annual crop. If you cut it down to the ground in the spring after it's formed it's seed heads, it will die and not reproduce. You can then just poke holes into the ground and plant new seeds. It's not important the dead roots are in the way. This was really a key principle in the book by Fukuoka I mentioned above. He also had some techniques to smother clover a little, so it died back a bit, long enough for another crop to establish itself. He really spent his whole life figuring these kinds of things out, but most of his techniques were specific to the climate in Japan.

Aeration and compaction are not really issues I think, as long as you don't walk on the ground. Undisturbed ground will naturally have more worms and other life that keeps it loose.

If necessary, you can use a tool that's like a wide digging fork with very narrow prongs. In this way you loosen the ground underneath without disturbing the layers. But I think this isn't necessary unless you walk on the ground.

Anyway, this is certainly the direction I'm heading in my garden and there's loads of stuff on the Internet about it, just not many bloggers sharing their experiences yet. I guess I'll have to be one of the first.

I too am a little stuck in my old ways of digging.